Jim Folts   Blount County Commissioner

 

“To stand in silence, when they should be protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham Lincoln

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  • Thursday July 21, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse

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. Just send me an email at jimfolts@gmail.com, or give me a call at 995-9476.


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June 2011 Report

Tax Increase – It only YOUR money!

Fourteen Blount County Commissioners (Gamble and Kirby voted against the tax increase, then turned tail and failed to support the Mayor's veto of the the increase) lacked the courage to cut the budgets of politically powerful officials like Sheriff Berrong, Circuit Court Clerk Hatcher, and Mayor Mitchell. They took the easy way out. They raised your taxes.

 

At least Mayor Mitchell took some steps to get his budget under control. Berrong and Hatcher simply thumbed their noses at the Budget Committee and the taxpayers.

 

These officials, and their fourteen friends on the Commission, did not seem to care about the plight of our citizens. Nearly one in four properties in the county have been foreclosed in the last three years. Nearly ten percent of our citizens are unemployed. Countless others are working at jobs far below their talents and capabilities. County General Fund spending has grown 2.5 times faster than the incomes of the citizens over the last five years.

 

Against this background, the Commission should have spent lots of time going over every item in the budget. They should have cut overspending and waste wherever it existed. They should have looked carefully at the data, which showed that Blount County is spending at least $9 million, or 23%, more per year in the General Fund budget than the average of the three counties closest to our county in population. They should have asked the Sheriff to explain, in detail, why he is spending $5 million more per year than the average of the other counties. They should have asked the Circuit Court Clerk and the Mayor lots of tough questions They didn’t. If they had, they might have asked why other departments in the county like the County Clerk, County Trustee and Registrar, can operate close to the average of the comparison counties, while the Sheriff and others wildly outspend the other counties.

 

Despite several attempts to get the budget on the agenda of earlier meetings, the full Commission repeatedly refused to even discuss the county budget until this month.

 

In the end, the Commission spent less than 60 minutes, all year, discussing a budget that filled 274 pages. Commissioner Samples offered an amendment to the tax rate motion, to hold the rate at $2.04. It was voted down. (Click here to see video clip Part 1).


Commissioner Hasty tried to get the Commission to look at the cost of employee benefits, a $15 million budget item. The average Tennessee county employee contributes $94 per month toward their benefits. Many citizens are paying $200 to $1000 per month for similar coverage. Blount County employees pay nothing. Hasty proposed $12.50 per week. Only Commissioners Murrell, Hasty, Gamble and myself voted for Hasty’s proposal. The rest of the Commissioners, many of whom are county employees or their relatives, did not seem to care about this burden on the taxpayers. (Click here to see video clip Part 2)


I attempted to present a few slides showing the need to reduce spending. The machine Commissioners did not want to look at the data. A motion was then made to end the debate after just 50 minutes. Only Commissioners Murrell, Burkhalter and myself wanted to continue to try to find ways to come up with a better budget. Most of the machine Commissioners read their required statements admitting their conflicts of interest. Then they voted and quickly ended the meeting.(Click here to see video clip Part 3)

 

The new budget does nothing about the $5 million of overspending and waste in the Sheriff’s office. It does nothing about the $800,000 of overspending and waste in the Circuit Court Clerks office. It makes modest cuts in the $3 million of overspending in the Mayor’s departments.

 

The new budget is not balanced. It requires a $2.41 tax rate. It depends on one time money, and drawing down county reserve funds, to bridge the gap between the increased $2.15 rate and $2.41. If the Commission again refuses to do the hard work of cutting the budget next year, they will be imposing a tax rate of $2.50 on the citizens. Nearly a 25% increase in taxes in 24 months. The hard-pressed citizens of this county deserve better effort from their Commissioners. YOU will not get that effort unless they attend Commission meetings and DEMAND more effort from the fourteen Commissioners who took the easy way out – Burchfield, Burhalter, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, Gamble, Greene, Harrison, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lewis, Melton and Moon.